Drug Distribution Penalties

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 What Is Drug Distribution?

Drug distribution includes the following activities involving illegal drugs:

  • Sale;
  • Transfer;
  • Exchange;
  • Import; or
  • Export.

Drug distribution, which may also be known as drug trafficking, and the illegal importing of drugs are very serious crimes. The penalties for drug trafficking depend on several factors, including:

  • The amount of drugs being distributed;
  • The area in which the drugs were distributed;
  • Other factors include whether or not children or dangerous weapons were involved.

Drug distribution is classified as a felony and is a more serious crime than drug possession. When an individual is charged with drug distribution, law enforcement believes that the individual was in possession of the drugs with the intent to sell them.

Typically, an individual is charged with drug distribution when they have large amounts of the drug in their possession. They may also have other tools or property in their possession that would assist them in selling or distributing the drugs.

Although the laws may vary, an individual is generally guilty of distribution of a controlled substance when they transfer that substance to another individual. The transfer may be actual, constructive, or attempted.

The transfer is actual when an individual physically transfers the controlled substances to another individual. On the other hand, the prosecution may also prove that an individual intends to sell or distribute illegal substances through their actions or the quantity of drugs they have in their possession.

For example, there may be a large quantity of drugs that are packaged in small quantities. In that case, it may show that an individual’s substances are packaged to sell rather than packaged for personal use. Therefore, intent to distribute may be inferred without any evidence of actual distribution.

The transfer of controlled substances is attempted when an individual attempts to transfer a controlled substance to another individual but they are prevented from doing so. In other words, they attempt to transfer the substance and fail.

Distribution of controlled substances may carry the harshest penalties of all of the drug crimes because they involve enabling the drug use of others and the perpetuation of the drug problems that are plaguing society.

What Are Some Examples of Drug Distribution?

There are several examples of illegal activities included in the category of drug distribution, including:

  • Shipping drugs via mail;
  • Transporting drugs via:
    • car;
    • boat;
    • plane; or
    • other mode of transportation;
  • Selling drugs to another individual;
  • Giving drugs to another individual;
  • Advertising the sale of drugs; and
  • Coordinating the transport or sale of drugs.

What Types of Drugs Are Illegal?

There are many different types of drugs that are illegal. Pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs into five schedules.

The five schedules of drugs are called Schedule I through Schedule V. Schedule I drugs are those that are highly addictive street drugs and offer no medical use. In contrast, Schedule V drugs are prescription drugs that have a low risk of abuse.

The illegal distribution of Schedule I-V drugs is prohibited by federal laws. State laws either adopt the Schedules found in the Controlled Substances Act or create their own classifications.

Both federal and state agencies prosecute the illegal distribution of Schedule I-V drugs. Many Schedule V drugs, including prescription drugs, may be legally bought and sold by authorized pharmacies to individuals who possess valid prescriptions.

Some examples of common illegal drugs include:

  • Heroin;
  • Cocaine;
  • Methamphetamine;
  • Marijuana;
  • Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice;
  • PCP;
  • Ecstasy;
  • LSD, acid, and other hallucinogens;
  • Prescription painkillers;
  • ADHD medication;
  • Psychotropic prescription medications;
  • Muscle relaxers; and
  • Sleeping pills.

What Does It Mean to Possess an Illegal Substance?

As noted above, state and federal laws may vary regarding the punishment for possession of an illegal substance. At the most basic definition, an individual has possession of an illegal substance when that individual is aware of the presence of the illegal substance and has physical control of the substance.

An individual also has possession of an illegal substance, including narcotics, if that individual has the power and intention to control the substance. Criminal possession is defined as holding property that is illegal to possess.

Law enforcement may show possession in two ways: actual possession and constructive possession. With actual possession, the individual has actual possession of an illegal substance that is physically on their person.

It may also be possible for an individual to be in possession of an illegal substance even when the substance is not on the individual’s physical person. An individual may also be in possession of an illegal substance that the individual does not own.

In addition, it may be possible for more than one individual to be in possession of an illegal substance.

What Are Drug Distribution Penalties?

The distribution of drugs is typically a felony. However, this may vary by jurisdiction.

Felonies are serious offenses that are punishable by a year or more in state or federal prison. The penalties for drug distribution charges vary based on the type of the drug and the amount of the drug.

For example, illegal distribution of Schedule I controlled substances is more harshly punished than the illegal distribution of Schedule V controlled substances. Additionally, the larger the amount of drugs that are possessed for distribution, the harsher the penalty will be.

The penalties for distribution typically include a period of incarceration that ranges from one year to ten years in prison. Additionally, criminal fines may also be ordered, which may range from $100 to $10,000.

The penalty may be increased if certain aggravating factors were present. These factors include:

  • Prior drug arrest history;
  • The sale of drugs to a minor or the sale of drugs on school grounds;
  • Distribution while armed;
  • If children were involved;
  • The classification of the drug being distributed.

Many drug distribution cases involve the civil forfeiture of assets. In a civil forfeiture, the federal agency, the state, or the municipality that is responsible for the prosecution will be permitted to permanently seize assets that were associated with the crime of distribution. Assets that may be seized include:

  • Monetary proceeds from the drug distribution;
  • Buildings that were used as grow houses;
  • Vehicles that were used to transport the drugs.

How Much of the Substance Must Be Present for a Drug Trafficking Charge?

How much of a substance must be present for a drug trafficking charge depends on the circumstances of the case. Whether an offense is charged as a simple possession crime or as drug trafficking may depend on the amount of the drug that was involved as well as the type of drug.

For example, possession of three grams of marijuana may result in an individual being charged with drug possession. On the other hand, being in possession of 25 pounds of marijuana may result in a drug trafficking charge.

In contrast, some drugs only take a small amount to result in a trafficking charge. For example, if an individual is in possession of as little as a few grams of cocaine or heroin, they may be charged with drug trafficking.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Drug Distribution Arrest?

It is essential to have the assistance of a drug lawyer if you have been arrested and charged with a drug distribution crime. If you have been arrested or charged, then a prosecutor is building a case against you in hopes of securing a conviction and a prison sentence.

Your drug distribution lawyer will review your case, determine if any defenses are available to you, and represent you during any court proceedings. A drug conviction can affect you for the rest of your life, so it is important to have an attorney protecting your rights.

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